U.S. EPA Seeks Suggestions on Improving Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Reporting

Date: Oct 30, 2002

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched the first phase of a two-part on-line public comment period as part of a national Stakeholder Dialogue on the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program. 67 Fed. Reg. 63656, 63656-57. The TRI Program makes information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities available to the public through an internet-accessible, searchable database. Certain industrial and federal facilities that manufacture, possess, or otherwise use more than the threshold quantity of a listed toxic chemical, of which there are over 650, must report releases and waste management activities to U.S. EPA and their state by July 1st of each year.

The on-line comment period, which began October 18, 2002, extends through December 17, 2002. In Phase I of the comment period EPA is seeking suggestions on how it can better administer the TRI database and improve its handling of the reporting, collecting, processing, and publishing of the TRI data. Essentially the Agency would reportedly like to improve data quality, make TRI resources more user-friendly, and reduce reporting and record keeping burdens on the regulated community. To guide the discussion, EPA has three "issue papers" that explain, in more detail, the administrative wrinkles that EPA perceives in this program.  Some of the topics discussed in the issue papers include EPA's overall management and the public release of TRI data, the feasibility of electronic TRI submissions, and the effectiveness of the TRI reporting forms, the TRI assistance library, the training workshops, the EPCRA/RCRA call center, and the TRI website. To log on and comment on the TRI program, go to the above mentioned link and click on one of the three issue papers. Each paper provides a form for comments that respond to the specific issues and/or questions raised in that paper.

The timing of Phase Two of the Right-to-Know Dialogue, which will also take place on-line, has not been announced. It appears that the comments sought by EPA during Phase Two will relate to substantive implementation issues associated with the collection of TRI data. According to EPA, Phase Two "will focus on future directions for the program, including what data are collected in the TRI, how these data are characterized, and whether additional data should be collected. One key element will be clarifying the data elements on recycling and other waste management activities required by the Pollution Prevention Act."

Phase Two will present an ideal opportunity to comment on such things as expanding opportunities to claim, based on site security, the submission of certain data as confidential business information (CBI). Initial feedback on reporting at lower thresholds for persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals (PBTs) would be timely as well. In addition, Phase Two will be an excellent time to present new information about chemicals listed on section 313 that may warrant their de-listing.